Follow the Joy

joyful couple dancing - fizkes/Shutterstock.com

From time to time, we feel the need to understand better what our gifts are. I think this is particularly true at certain stages of life. There’s a big surge toward our giftedness during adolescence, when many of us discover that we like music or can paint or write stories or play basketball well. What’s wonderful about that age is that we’re full of passionate energy, so that our gifts can really take off and develop.

If we’re lucky, we grow to adulthood with some sense of our gifts, and we stay involved with them. If we’re really lucky, we end up working full-time at a job that incorporates at least some of our gifts. If we are involved in bringing up children, for a time our focus shifts to helping them discover their gifts.

Then, at midlife, we just might find ourselves in a second adolescence. We don’t have the same levels of raw energy we did in our teens, but we do feel surges of desire. We find ourselves taking classes again. We develop hobbies—such as woodworking, gardening, or knitting—that speak to those deep desires.

Often, I believe that those desires are pointing to our gifts. Because, in the most basic—and biblical—sense, our gifts are closely aligned with our deepest joy. What this means is that, if we attend to our true desires, we certainly will bump into our gifts.

This also means that, if you’re struggling to know what your gifts are (and some gifts lie dormant for decades, waiting for the right time to emerge), all you need to do is follow the joy.

Spend some time remembering what you loved doing as a child, then as an older kid, then a teenager. When you were free to do what you really wanted to do, what was that? What kinds of activities really energized you?

And, as an adult, what do you do that makes you lose track of time? When do you really get into “the zone”? What do you do that gives you that gut-level sense of satisfaction—regardless of how well you’ve done it or how imperfect the outcome?

Sometimes we discover that, even as children, we knew what gave us true joy. And the same activities we liked then are helpful clues to what we might be called to do now. In other cases, a gift really has lain dormant, and your desires now lead to discovery of a whole new thing.

Ask yourself—maybe every day—“What really gives me joy?”

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